BOOK REVIEW: Hindu Approaches to Spiritual Care: Chaplaincy in Theory and Practice

Hindu Approaches to Spiritual Care is a timely and important contribution to the field of chaplaincy, interfaith care, interreligious education, and Hindu life, particularly within diaspora.  Traditionally, a chaplain is a religious representative who offers support, counseling, and care in a variety of mostly secular institutions or settings including hospitals, nursing homes, government, schools and universities, jails, and within the military. This history dates back to the fourth century with the Christian, Saint Martin de Tours, who became known for his acts of charity and service and whose relic, a cloak torn in half to share with a desperate beggar, became a symbol within military settings for honor, faith, and good works. Today, chaplains are perhaps best well-known for the work they do with hospice and, in particular, they hold a unique role for navigating the spiritual needs for patients and their families in end of life settings. Where once a chaplain was a clear representative of a single religious tradition, today many chaplains are trained to be open to multiple faith perspectives and to respond to and support the immediate spiritual and emotional well-being of those that they serve without proselytizing or advancing their own particular religious worldview. This contemporary approach is crucial, especially for those who are unsure of their own religious worldview and for those who come from a tradition that differs from that of the chaplain. Alongside interfaith chaplaincy, a robust practice and training for chaplaincy has developed within various religious traditions including Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. And, while Hindus have been called to serve as chaplains in a variety of contexts, especially in the United States, prior to the publication of Hindu Approaches to Spiritual Care, there has been a lack of formal, comprehensive, and constructive discussion about what makes Hindu chaplaincy unique, necessary, and effective.  

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